A timber surface with pine cones, candy canes, presents, dried orange slices and cinnamon sticks.

How to make the holidays your own

The holiday season can be divisive. For some, it is truly the happiest time of the year. Meanwhile, a great many among us hate Christmas. Sometimes, all it takes to awaken the Grinch is the opening bars of a Christmas carol at the supermarket in October. That’s even if we celebrate it at all. Let’s not forget there are many other holidays celebrated around the same time as Christmas.

Even if you do enjoy the festivities and family time, the silly season can be stressful. Whatever your take on it, here are some of the major holiday stressors and some tips on making the holidays your own!


No bonus points for guessing this one. Around this time of year, everyone wants to catch up. Lunches, dinners, coffees. Bringing gifts into the mix means even more money. If you’re travelling over the holidays, that can be super pricey too. On a student budget, just making the trip home to see your family can break the bank. And sometimes the bank balance won’t even allow us to get home when we desperately want to. CANSTAR has got some great tips on curbing the holiday spending.

Family relationships

If you have a fantastic holiday with your family, that’s great and you’re very lucky. However, not every family is happy, functional or fun to be around. Maybe you don’t really like your family and you don’t want to see them. Even if your family is great, Christmas can bring a whole level of family tension that never usually exists. Often, Christmas brings with it the extended family. And for some reason, Mum always invites Aunty Pam even though they’ve been feuding since 1984.

There’s a lot of pressure during the holidays to be around your family, sometimes filled with the presence of broken or strained relationships. And if you avoid your family, sometimes there is guilt associated with that.


The loss of a loved one can make the holiday season incredibly difficult, especially if you usually saw that loved one at Christmas. It doesn’t even have to be the first Christmas without them, grief can affect us for many years. Grief affects everyone differently, but it is invariably tough to navigate. For some tips on navigating Christmas after a loss, see here.

Figure out how you want your holidays to look

Put everyone else’s wishes out of your mind… how do you want your holidays to look? Once you know this, you can start to determine where and how you spend your time.

Change up the gift-giving situation

The worst thing you could do this holiday season is to get yourself into debt for the sake of gift-giving.

Be honest with the people closest to you. Suggest that the holidays go without gifts or propose a Secret Santa. You could also host a potluck style meal, in which you ask each friend or family member to bring a dish to share. For ideas, check out these 50 ‘bring a plate’ recipe ideas. After all, isn’t Christmas about spending time with your favourite people?

Consider not seeing the people you don’t want to see

What’s that about favourite people? Sometimes your favourite people are not your family. Chosen family can, for many people, be far more supportive, non-judgemental and fun. If seeing your father brings on waves of anxiety or other negative emotions, have a think about whether seeing your father is worth it.

Set some boundaries

Ultimately, we don’t want to bring unnecessary pain and hurt to ourselves. That’s just human nature. But family is a fickle beast. The things we do in the name of family. In considering self-care this holiday season, think about your own boundaries. Who you will and won’t spend time with, for how long, how much of your time and energy you’re willing to give. This can be easier said than done, but these tips will give you some ideas about how to have the conversation.

If Aunty Pam will be gracing the Christmas dinner table, consider giving a heads up that you’ll be leaving within a few hours to attend another party. If you don’t have it in you to prepare the meal, say so.

Spend more time with your chosen family

Whether you are seeing your actual family or not, give that chosen family some love. These are the people who love us at our truest self. Sometimes they provide a home away from home, If we live far from our actual family. In other cases, they’re all we’ve got. Get together for a Friendsmas potluck dinner and enjoy each other’s company.

Start a new tradition

Think of all the things you love to do over the Christmas period. Or something that breaks the mould in a way you love. Why not turn one of them into a new tradition? Breakfast fry up for Christmas lunch? Secret Santa every single year? Camping in a national park? Put on your favourite movie and order Chinese takeaway?

But DON’T isolate yourself

There are plenty of reasons to dislike Christmas, but if you’re feeling extra Grinchy or exceptionally alone this holiday period, don’t isolate yourself.

Give yourself permission to do what you like, however, take the opportunity to enjoy some genuine human connection. Even if it is for a few hours, do something. Show up to your work Christmas party. Visit a friend for a cuppa one afternoon. On Christmas Day itself, consider volunteering in a soup kitchen, visiting the residents of a retirement home or heading down to the local church’s Christmas meal.

Whatever you celebrate – or don’t celebrate – we hope you enjoy yourself. Advocacy & Welfare wishes you and your family a happy and healthy holiday season.

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